‘I’m a Makeup Artist From a Place Where Temps Dip Below Zero, and These Are My Cold-Weather Makeup Essentials’

Photo: Courtesy of Mary Irwin
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Growing up in Montana, celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin learned the importance of protecting her skin in the winter. Sub-zero temps are to be expected in this mountainous region, so proper skin care is a must. Whenever the now-New York City-based makeup artist returns home, she knows that it's time to kick her routine into high gear, using the most hydrating and moisturizing ingredients so her makeup doesn't freeze up and flake off of her skin.

"My family lives at the base of the mountains, tens of thousands of feet up in the air and it's so cold and there's no humidity," says Irwin. "Your skin just gets so dry, so my routine is all about products that pull moisture from the air."

Experts In This Article

Irwin has combination skin that gets super dry in the winter, which means all-over hydration is extra important. "I run on the dehydrated side, but then my T-zone can get real oily," says Irwin. "If I'm in Montana, I will literally see my cheeks get dehydrated and start to get those fine lines from dehydration. If I don't properly hydrate enough, my face will literally start to crack and I can peel layers of skin off. It's super disgusting."

But luckily, Irwin knows exactly how to keep this from happening. Learn all about her winter makeup routine below.

Start with a moisturized base

Preparation is a huge part of Irwin's routine. "The thing about makeup in the winter is that if your skin isn't properly prepped, your face is going to eat your makeup," she says. "If your skin is dry, it's going to absorb whatever you put on the top."

Irwin likes to regularly treat her face with at-home facials and toner. For this step in her routine, she's a huge fan of Youth To The People.

Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask
Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask — $48.00

Irwin likes to use this mask to both exfoliate and hydrate her skin and keep it flake-free. “It has squalane and hyaluronic acid which draw moisture to the skin and to do an incredibly thorough job of effectively moisturizing even in the harsh of winter, and Vitamin C to brighten,” she says. “It’s also an overnight mask which I love in the winter.”

Youth To The People Yerba Mate Resurfacing
Youth To The People Yerba Mate Resurfacing + Exfoliating Energy Facial — $54.00

She also swears by this resurfacing mask, which she says is a miracle worker on her combination skin. “I love formulas that use plant extracts and enzymes,” she says. “This has papaya extract, pineapple extract, diatomaceous earth, and bamboo, which all work pretty gently to break down dead skin cells on the skin surface and resurface without being overly aggressive. “

Youth To The People Kombucha
Youth To The People Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Toner — $38.00

She also loves this toner, which she says is great for all skin types. “It’s a leave-on Treatment that you do at night, that has lactic and glycolic acid, and then kombucha and tree bark ferment that helps to support the skin’s microbiome.”

For her daily routine, Irwin starts by washing her face, which helps to create a clean, nourished canvas that she can more easily apply her makeup onto. "When you're at 4,000 feet above sea level and it's freezing cold and there's no humidity, your skin literally starts to feel like leather, so I feel like I have to wash my skin just to get it soft enough so that things will actually absorb," she says.  She likes to double cleanse, first with an oil-based makeup remover followed by a hydrating cleanser.

Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil, winter makeup routine
Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil — $64.00

“I really like oil-based cleansers in the winter,” says Irwin. “Erno Laszlo has an oil cleanser that I love for the winter.” This cleanser is formulated for dull, congested skin that’s in need of a deep-clean.

Le Mieux Peptide Foam Cleanser
Le Mieux Peptide Foam Cleanser — $25.00

Next, she uses this cleanser from Le Mieux, which she says is great for super dry skin. It’s enriched with peptides, red algae extract, natural oils, and mango seed butter to cleanse your skin while leaving it super soft.

In addition to using the right products, Irwin notes that it's equally important to pay attention to the temperature of the water you're using to wash your face. "What happens in the winter is that a lot of people's skin gets really dehydrated because you're so cold so you want to warm yourself up with a hot shower or a hot bath, which is great for raising your internal body temperature, but not super great for your skin," she says. She suggests sticking with room-temperature water to avoid any unnecessary dehydration.

Next, Irwin adds a serum. To get a hydrated base for makeup, "it's all about layering skincare," she says.  "Use some sort of humectant product, whether it's a hyaluronic acid serum or a glycerin-based serum. Just something that's really hydrating." Then, she seals it all in with a moisturizer and facial oil.

Le Mieux TGF-β Booster, winter makeup routine
Le Mieux TGF-β Booster — $65.00

“Le Mieux is known for their serums… and this serum is magic for winter skin,” says Irwin. “It doesn’t have water in it, so it’s literally just all active ingredients.” Among them? Hydrating hyaluronic acid and collagen-stimulating copper peptides.


Sonia Roselli Water Balm Skin Prep
Sonia Roselli Water Balm Skin Prep — $52.00

“Sonia Roselli has been a makeup artist for 25 years, and her whole development process was to make products for private clients and for artists that were actually good for the skin,” says Irwin. “She has a water-based moisturizer product called ‘Water Balm,’ and she was one of the first people to create a moisturizer that turns into water droplets when you massage into your hands.” It’s super hydrating, and great on all skin types.

B3 Squalane Face Oil, winter makeup routine
B3 Squalane Face Oil — $22.00

Squalane is the oil most readily absorbed by skin because it’s the closest to the lipids that the skin naturally produces,” says Irwin, who touts this squalane-based facial oil as the best she’s ever used.

Ready for makeup

After getting her skin nice and hydrated, Irwin is ready for makeup. She uses lots of creamy, moisturizing products that won't cake or flake in cooler temps.

Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Aqua Foundation
Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Aqua Foundation — $77.00

Koh Gen Do is a “Japanese-American brand that was originally formulated for use in high-def cameras,” says Irwin, who’s a big fan of this foundation in particular.”It’s a pigment wrapped in water formula and it has a fluffy gel texture—it’s beautiful,” she says. “I wish they had more colors. It’s not the widest shade range, but they have a couple of good dark shades as well.”

Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer, winter makeup routine
Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer — $30.00

Irwin is a huge fan of these iconic concealers from Nars. “They’re just gorgeous,” she says. They can be used to brighten dark under-eye circles, hide blemishes, and highlight your high points, and promise at least 16 hours of staying power so you won’t have to worry about caking or flaking.

Rituel de Fille Color Nectar Pigment Balm
Rituel de Fille Color Nectar Pigment Balm — $24.00

These creamy, pigmented blush balms are great for adding a pop of color to the face. “They’re so hydrating and the pigment quality is so good,” says Irwin. “And because it has a jelly texture, I feel like even on dry skin it doesn’t catch—the color goes on evenly. Also, those are really nice to put on with your fingers, because I feel in the winter, the warmth from your hands really blends product in even more nicely than a brush.”

Essence Lash Princess Waterproof, winter makeup routine
Essence Lash Princess Waterproof — $7.00

The most important part of Irwin’s winter makeup routine that you’d probably never think of on your own? Waterproof mascara.

“Winter is always a good time for waterproof mascara because you go outside and the wind hits you and then you’re crying,” says Irwin. “This one will stay on for the rest of your natural life, unless you have a really good oil-based remover. I have short, stubby lashes that are literally so blondes that they’re see-through, and I have a hooded eye, so my lashes normally smudge all over the place. If you let this mascara dry properly, it will not smudge.”

Hurraw! Tinted Lip Balm 3 Pack
Hurraw! Tinted Lip Balm 3 Pack — $20.00

The Hurraw! lip balms are made in Montana and colored with fruit that’s grown in the state. Irwin can’t get enough of them. “I order 10 of them at a time,” she says. They’re lightly tinted, and taste exactly like the flavors they’re named for.

Youth To The People Adaptogen Soothe + Hydrate Activated Mist, winter makeup routine
Youth To The People Adaptogen Soothe + Hydrate Activated Mist — $42.00

To help her makeup stand up to the elements (and to keep her skin dewy throughout the day), Irwin spritzes her face with this hydrating mist. “It’s calming. It’s soothing. It’s just a nice little keep-on-your-desk kind of situation,” she says. “And I’ve been basically setting everyone’s makeup with that even though it’s not a setting spray at all.”

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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